There was a time when the Gold Cup at Ascot was one of the most prestigious races of the year and a natural target for the previous year's classic stars. It was the first race at the Royal meeting to get Group 1 status when the pattern system was introduced, but the attribute required to win it – stamina – has since become something of a dirty word.
That is a pity because not only are the top stayers' races an important and popular part of the racing calendar, but the shifting trend towards early speed and precocity is greatly reducing the number of stallions with the potential to sire Derby and Oaks stars plus, of course, St Leger and Gold Cup horses.
Order Of St George is one of the best stayers of the modern era, a horse who is as effective at 12 furlongs as he is over a mile farther, and so something of a throwback to those days of old when a Derby hero would remain in training to tackle the Ascot feature, a race that, as Timeform pointed out again in their 2016 essay on this Aidan O'Brien-trained champion, does not include the word Ascot in its title (Racehorses of 2016, p.740).
He began his career in July of his two-year-old season, finishing fourth in a mile maiden at Leopardstown and ran away with a similar contest over the same course and distance the following month. He was runner-up to Parish Boy over a furlong less at Naas 10 days before and it was that same colt who beat him in the Listed Eyrefield Stakes over nine furlongs at Leopardstown that October.
Order Of St George missed the early season classics and was short-headed by Bondi Beach on his return to action in the Group 3 Curragh Cup in late June. He then posted wide-margin wins in Her Majesty's Plate at Down Royal and the Group 3 Irish St Leger Trial Stakes at the Curragh, and that seven and a half-length defeat of Sea Moon was followed by an 11-length drubbing of Agent Murphy in the Group 1 Irish St Leger.
Timeform rated him 129 that season, just 5lbs behind Horse of the Year, Derby and Arc hero Golden Horn, and although the Gold Cup was the obvious target, it was hoped by some that this exciting colt might also drop back to 12 furlongs at some point.
He ran six times as a four-year-old, duly landing the Group 1 Gold Cup at Ascot, in which he beat Mizzou by three lengths. A shock half-length defeat by Wicklow Brave in the Group 1 Irish St Leger was, however, followed by what was arguably the best performance of his career to that point.
Order Of St George chased home Found and Highland Reel in the Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe over 12 furlongs at Chantilly, beaten one and three-quarter lengths and one and a half lengths, and securing for his trainer an historic one-two-three in Europe's most prestigious race.
He was a warm favourite for the Group 2 Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup, over two miles at Ascot, 13 days later but, on this occasion, he disappointed, finishing only fourth to Sheikhzayedroad.
His five starts in 2017 have yielded three wins and two seconds, and having been short-headed by Big Orange in the Gold Cup and beaten Rekindling easily when taking a third edition of the Group 3 Irish St Leger Trial at the Curragh, he goes into tomorrow afternoon's Group 1 Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe off the back of a nine-length score in this month's Group 1 Comer Group International Irish St Leger.
Order Of St George is, of course, among 70 Group 1 winners sired by Coolmore Stud's prolific champion sire Galileo (by Sadler's Wells). He is a $550,000 graduate of the Keeneland September Yearling Sale and, as that fact might suggest, he comes from a top US family, which is part of why it would be fascinating to see how he might fare if given the chance as a flat sire.
He is the best of four stakes winners out of Another Storm (by Gone West), those siblings include the mile Group/Grade 3 scorers Angel Terrace (by Ghostzapper) and Asperity (by War Chant), and his dam is a daughter of 1996's US juvenile filly champion Storm Song (by Summer Squall).
She won the Grade 2 Adirondack Stakes, Grade 1 Frizette Stakes and Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, she is the grandam of the top Singapore mile to 10-furlong runner Better Life (by Smarty Jones), and she is a half-sister to the ill-fated Grade 2 Oak Leaf Stakes winner Diamond Omi (by Giant's Causeway).
Her siblings also include the unraced Happy Tune (by A.P. Indy), who is the dam of 12-furlong Grade 3 scorer Symphony Kid (by Unbridled) and of Grade 3-winning miler High Cotton (by Dixie Union).
Hum Along (by Fappiano), whose offspring included the $6.8 million yearling purchase Tasmanian Tiger (by Storm Cat), is the third dam of Order Of St George. She was only placed once as a two-year-old but each of her next three dams was a multiple stakes winner.
Minstress (by The Minstrel) was a Grade 3-placed dual listed scorer, Fleet Victress (by King Of The Tudors) won the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay Handicap and was a track record setter over eight and a half furlongs at Belmont Park, and Countess Fleet (by Count Fleet) – the sixth dam of the young Ballydoyle star – won the prestigious Milady and Vanity Handicaps, setting a new track record for nine furlongs in the latter.
On pedigree, Order Of St George had the potential to prove best in the mile to 12-furlong range and so, with the right mares, it is entirely possible that he could sire top-class performers over those distances, in addition to the stayers that he will surely get.
He will, of course, attract considerable attention from the National Hunt sector, but at a time when so many new flat recruits are good sprinters or milers, or even precocious sorts who retire early, aiming him solely at the jumps market could be a missed opportunity.
There is always plenty of interest when a very well bred juvenile makes its debut and although he finished only sixth behind Algometer in late October, his only start at two, the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Ulysses showed potential and earned a Timeform rating of 81p.
That mile Newbury maiden was followed by a 10-furlong contest at Leicester in late April of last year but he was beaten again, this time finishing a half-length runner-up. Three weeks later, however, he was so impressive in scoring by eight lengths over the same trip at Newbury that he was sent off at 8/1 for the Group 1 Investec Derby at Epsom on his next start.
He disappointed there but bounced back to beat The Major General by half a length in the Group 3 Gordon Stakes over 12 furlongs at Goodwood, was short-headed by the front-running Chain Of Daisies in the Group 3 Winter Hill Stakes over 10 at Windsor, and then advertised his Group 1 potential when finishing fourth to Highland Reel in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita in early November.
He finished the season with a Timeform rating of 121, but when he beat Deauville by a length in the Group 3 Gordon Richards Stakes at Sandown on his four-year-old debut in late April, that figure moved up to 126p which identified him as one of the potential stars of 2017 and a major contender for the Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot.
He put up an excellent performance on the fast ground, and even got his head in front briefly in the final furlong, but had to settle for third to Highland Reel and Decorated Knight, another one-two-three for Coolmore Stud stallion Galileo (by Sadler's Wells) in a top-level event.
Ulysses is owned and bred by the Niarchos family’s Flaxman Stables Ireland Ltd, and in addition to being a son of the prolific champion sire, he has the considerable attraction of being out of the Group 1 Oaks heroine Light Shift (by Kingmambo).
She was trained by the late Sir Henry Cecil, her classic victory was by half a length from Peeping Fawn, and it followed defeat of All My Loving in the Listed Cheshire Oaks.
After Epsom she ran three times, chasing home Peeping Fawn in the Group 1 Irish Oaks at the Curragh, finishing third behind that same star in the Group 1 Nassau Stakes at Goodwood, and then disappointing as an unplaced favourite behind Satwa Queen in the Group 1 Prix de l’Opera at Longchamp.
Light Shift is out of Lingerie (by Shirley Heights) and that makes her a half-sister to the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup heroine Shiva (by Hector Protector), to the French Group 2 scorer Limnos (by Hector Protector), to Grade 1 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap runner-up Hyades (by Aldebaran), and to Burning Sunset (by Caerleon), a mile Saint-Cloud listed scorer who finished third in the Group 2 Prix d’Harcourt over 10 furlongs at Longchamp.
The best of Shiva’s offspring is the Francis-Henri Graffard-trained four-year-old That Which Is Not (by Elusive Quality), who won the Listed Prix Zarkava over 10 and a half furlongs at Saint-Cloud in early April and chased home Armande in the Group 2 Prix Corrida over the same course and distance last month.
Burning Sunset, on the other hand, is the dam of the Group 2-placed stakes winner Zhiyi (by Henrythenavigator), of Group 2 Prix d’Harcourt scorer and Group 1 Singapore Airlines International Cup runner-up Smoking Sun (by Smart Strike), and of Ikat (by Pivotal), the Group 3 Prix d’Aumale runner-up who gave us Group 1 Investec Derby runner-up and multiple US Grade 1 star Main Sequence (by Aldebaran).
Lingerie also has two non-winning daughters who deserve a mention because of what they have achieved at stud, and one of them is Molasses (Machiavellian). She was unraced but her son Magadan (by High Chaparral) won the Group 3 Prix d’Hedouville and finished third in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris, both at Longchamp. He stands at Haras de Treban, in France, and is off the mark as a sire.
Strawberry Fledge (by Kingmambo) is the other one. She is a full-sister to Light Shift, she was placed, and her son Cloth Of Stars (by Sea The Stars) won the Group 1 Prix Ganay at Saint-Cloud early last month.
That short-neck defeat of Zarak was his third pattern victory of the year, following the Group 3 Prix Exbury in March and a neck win over Mekhtaal in the Group 2 Prix d’Harcourt at Chantilly in April.
Last year he won both the Group 2 Prix Greffulhe and Group 3 Prix La Force and finished third in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris, and at two he won the Group 3 Prix des Chenes and was placed behind Robin Of Navan in both the Group 3 Prix de Conde and Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud.
Group 1 Prix de Diane (French Oaks) and Group 1 Prix Vermeille heroine Northern Trick (by Northern Dancer) is the third dam of Ulysees. She was runner-up in the Group 1 Prix Saint-Alary, chased home Sagace in the Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and was rated 131 by Timeform.
The only stakes winner among her seven successful runners was the Listed Prix Imprudence scorer Onda Nova (by Keos) and, in addition to Lingerie, she has another daughter who hit the top at stud. That is the placed Creature du Ciel (by Machiavellian), dam of the Brazilian Grade 1 stars Jeune-Turc (by Know Heights) and Nonno Luigi (by Dubai Dust).
With family connections like these, Ulysses is one of the best bred horses in training. He is a top-notch racehorse and, especially given how the Galileo stallions are doing, he also has the potential to do well whenever the time comes for him to go to stud.
Decorated Knight was a Group 2-placed miler when he left Roger Varian's stable to join the Roger Charlton team last year. He started off well from his new base, winning two of his four starts, but was not seen out again after his victory in the Group 3 Meld Stakes over nine furlongs at Leopardstown in mid-July.
The chestnut made a successful return to action in the Listed Betway Winter Derby Trial Stakes over 10 furlongs on the polytrack last month, increasing his official rating to 113, and he looks set for another raise following his win in the Group 1 Jebel Hatta Sponsored by Emirates Airline over nine furlongs at turf at Meydan this afternoon.
He is a 63rd winner at the highest level for Coolmore Stud's prolific champion sire Galileo (by Sadler's Wells) and, as he could be described as being a brother-in-blood to two classic stars, in addition to being out of a full-sister to a multiple champion sire, an eventual future role as a stallion has probably been on the cards at least since his victory in a 10-furlong listed contest at Goodwood 10 months ago.
With a Group 1 success to his name, the odds of that new career becoming a reality are surely odds-on and what remains to be discovered is where that will be and the strength of support he will receive.
He will need to do more to enhance his record on the track and, hence, his profile as a prospective stallion, but, with a top-level success on his CV, it just got a whole lot easier to market him as a less expensive alternative to two of his most famous relations.
Decorated Knight is out of Pearling (by Storm Cat) and that mare's string of blacktype siblings includes Giant's Causeway, You'resothrilling, and Freud, all of whom are also by Storm Cat (by Storm Bird).
Giant's Causeway was a Group 1 star at two, went on to become a Breeders' Cup Classic and dual Guineas-placed winner of the Group 1 Juddmonte International Stakes, Group 1 Eclipse Stakes, Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes, Group 1 Sussex Stakes, and Group 1 St James's Palace Stakes at three, before going on to become a triple US champion sire.
His current tally of 168 stakes winners includes 31 Group/Grade 1 scorers of whom Footstepsinthesand (52 SW inc 5 G1W), Ghanaati, Penelopa, and Shamardal (108 SW inc 18 G1W) have been European classic stars.
Group 2-placed sprinter Freud has been the leading New York-based stallion for a long time and his tally of 51 stakes winners includes the Grade 1 Prioress Stakes victress Franny Freud, Argentine Grade 1 scorer Must Go On, and the tragically ill-fated Grade 1 Vosburgh Stakes winner Giant Ryan.
You'resothrilling won the Group 2 Cherry Hinton Stakes and her first three foals are the Group 1 Irish 1000 Guineas heroine Marvellous, dual mile classic star and exciting young Coolmore stallion Gleneagles, and the Grade 1-placed pattern-winning filly Coolmore. They are all by Galileo, as is last year's Group 3 Killavullan Stakes third Taj Mahal.
The grandam of Decorated Knight is the Grade 1-placed Grade 2-winner Mariah's Storm (by Rahy), her offspring also include the blacktype sires Tumblebrutus (by Storm Cat) and Tiger Dance (by Storm Cat), and unraced Love Me Only (by Sadler's Wells), the dam of Storm The Stars (by Sea The Stars).
He won the Group 2 Great Voltigeur Stakes, chased home Jack Hobbs in the Group 1 Irish Derby, and finished third in both the Golden Horn's Group 1 Derby at Epsom and Erupt's Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp before spending a year Australia, where he picked up Group 2 placings at eight and 10 furlongs. It was reported in December that he is to be trained by Andreas Wöhler in 2017, in advance of a stallion career.
Panoramic (by Rainbow Quest), the Grade 1-placed Group 2-winning half-brother to Mariah's Storm, enjoyed some success as a dual-purpose sire – most notably with his Grade 1 Ramona Handicap-winning daughter Tuzla – and other descendants of their Grade 3-winning dam, Immense (by Roberto), include the US Grade 2 scorers Guys Reward (by Grand Reward) and Quest Star (by Broad Brush).
Decorated Knight still has improvement to make if he is to be able to win a well-contested Group 1 event in Europe, but he is clearly on the upgrade and it will be fascinating to see how the rest of his career turns out, both on the track and, eventually, at stud.
Coolmore Stud's prolific champion sire Galileo (by Sadler's Wells) has been having another tremendous year and his earnings in the combined Ireland and UK sires' championship title race have already passed the £6.2 million mark. His nearest rival on that table is his half-brother Sea The Stars (by Cape Cross), whose earnings of just over £2.4 million are highly commendable and likely to hit or surpass the £3 million mark by the end of the year.
In the past few weeks Galileo has been represented by six individual Group/Grade 1 winners, not all of whom are reflected in that particular earnings total, and the sextet includes Highland Reel, the widely-travelled colt who won the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot eight days ago.
An Aidan O'Brien-trained four-year-old, he was somewhat lucky to be able to add that prestigious event to his CV this year as the hot-favourite Postponed, bidding for a repeat success in the 12-furlong feature, missed the race due to a fever. But, to be fair to him, this is Highland Reel's third victory at the highest level, he was classic-placed at three, a Group 2 scorer at two, and he has done more than enough to attract plenty of interest as a prospective stallion.
His dam's famous full-brother has had mixed success at stud, as has her top-class half-brother, but the family also includes a multiple Group 1 star who has made quite an impression with his early runners in Europe, success that will, no doubt, also serve to promote their younger relation when his time in the covering shed comes.
Highland Reel was runner-up in a seven furlong Leopardstown maiden in June of his two-year-old season and was an easy odds-on winner of both his subsequent starts that year. The first was a mile maiden at Gowran Park, which he won by a dozen lengths, and the second was the Group 2 Vintage Stakes at Goodwood, which he took by two and a quarter lengths.
Unplaced when favourite for the Group 1 Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) on his reappearance the following spring, he bounced back to chase home New Bay in the Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) three weeks later, but then disappointed when well-beaten in the Group 1 Irish Derby. That was his first attempt at 12 furlongs, and although he won the Group 3 Gordon Stakes over that trip a month later, he then dropped back to 10 furlongs for his next three outings.
He made all for wide-margin win in the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington, finished a three and three-quarter length fifth behind Golden Horn in the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes, took third behind the outstanding filly Winx in the Group 1 Cox Plate at Moonee Valley, and then stepped back up in trip to beat Flintshire by a length and a half in the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase over 12 furlongs at Sha Tin.
Highland Reel added a seventh country to travels when running fourth behind Postponed in the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan in March, then it was back to Hong Kong for an unplaced effort in the Grade 1 Audemars Piguet QEII Cup over 10 furlongs at Sha Tin, before his narrow defeat by Dartmouth in last month's Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Highland Reel was bred by the Hveger Syndicate and his dam, Hveger (by Danehill), was a talented performer in her native Australia. She won just once, but she was runner-up in the Group 2 South Australia Oaks and finished third in the Group 1 Australasian Oaks, both at Morphettville.
Being a daughter of the Group 1 AJC Oaks heroine Circles Of Gold (by Marscay) and, thus, a sibling of two multiple Group 1 stars, she was always a candidate to make an impact at stud, and to get the very best of opportunities in that role. She has lived up to that potential, and there is a chance that she could have a classic winner to her name by the end of the year.
Her Australian-born daughter Valdemoro (by Encosta De Lago) was runner-up in both the Group 1 Storm Queen Stakes at Rosehill and in the Group 1 Victoria Oaks at Flemington, and the colt she had after Highland Reel is the dual Derby-placed Idaho (by Galileo), one of the ante-post favourites for the Group 1 Ladbrokes St Leger at Doncaster in September. His was third to Harzand at Epsom in June and then runner-up to that star at the Curragh. His two-year-old full-sister Cercle de La Vie made 460,000gns from Book 1 of the Tattersalls October Yearling Sale, and the mare had another Galileo filly in May 2015.
Hveger's most notable half-brother is Haradasun (by Fusaichi Pegasus), the Australian champion and dual Group 1 star who took the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2008. He has not had as many notable progeny as might have been hoped, but he is the sire of South African Grade 1 scorer Harry's Son and the Australian Group 2 winners Kabayan and Respondent, among others of note.
Elvstroem is a full-brother to Hveger and the champion and multimillionaire won the Group 1 Victoria Derby, Group 1 Caulfield Cup, Group 1 Underwood Stakes and Group 1 C F Orr Stakes among a string of pattern successes in Australia, plus the Group 1 Dubai Duty Free at Nad Al Sheba in Dubai.
His many top-level placings included second to Valixir in the Group 1 Prix d'Ispahan at Longchamp and third to Azamour in the Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes at York, and having spent his early years at stud in Australia, he has now finished his first season at Haras du Petit Tellier in France.
Elvstroem is an interesting addition to the European stallion ranks as he is a well-bred Danehill (by Danzig) horse that has proved that he can get sprinters, milers, middle-distance horses and stayers. His only Group 1 scorer among a dozen stakes winning offspring is Hucklebuck, a talented performer from six furlongs to mile and who is out of a mare by the outstanding Last Tycoon (by Try My Best) horse O'Reilly. His other pattern scorers include the Group 2-winning stayer Outback Joe, a son of the Group 1 Melbourne Cup heroine Let's Elope (by Nassipour).
There are plenty of mares in Europe who represent the Try My Best (by Northern Dancer) and Blushing Groom (by Red God) lines and, of course, it will be interesting to see how he gets on with all those Sadler's Wells (by Northern Dancer) and Green Desert (by Danzig) line mares too.
In addition to her victory in the Group 1 AJC Oaks, Circles Of Gold's top-level form includes second place in each of the Group 1 Caulfield Cup, Group 1 Queensland Oaks and Group 1 Eat More Fruit 'n' Veg Stakes, and she is the best of several winners out of a four-times scorer called Olympic Aim (by Zamazaan). Her gelded half-brother Gold Wells (by Barathea) won a Group 2 contest over a mile, but the sibling that catches the eye on the page is National Song (by Vain).
She did not win anything, but her stakes-placed daughter Gold Anthem (by Made of Gold) is the dam of Starspangledbanner (by Choisir) and grandam of Amicus (by Fastnet Rock). The latter, a Chris Waller-trained filly who will turn five tomorrow, won the Group 1 Schweppes Thousand Guineas over a mile at Caulfield two years ago, and twice at Group 2 level since then.
Starspangledbanner, of course, won the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas and the Group 1 Oakleigh Plate in Australia, added the Group 1 Golden Jubilee Stakes and the Group 1 July Cup in England, and he is a member of the Coolmore Stud stallion team in Ireland.
As is well known, he was sub-fertile in his earliest years at stud and after two seasons on the Coolmore roster he went back into training and then back to his breeders' Rosemont Stud in Australia. Then his small first crop hit the track. Now aged four, they include the The Wow Signal, Anthem Alexander, Home Of The Brave and Silver Rainbow, and the stallion has completed a third Irish season.
Group 1 Prix Morny and Group 2 Coventry Stakes winner The Wow Signal has finished his first season at Haras de Bouquetot in France, Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes heroine Anthem Alexander has been placed in the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes and Group 1 Commonwealth Cup, Group 3 scorer Home Of The Brave was runner-up to Dutch Connection in the Group 2 Lennox Stakes at Goodwood on Tuesday, and Silver Rainbow made it five wins from a dozen starts when taking the Listed Prix du Cercle over five furlongs at Deauville yesterday.
If you go back another generation of the pedigree then you will find that Olympic Aim, the third dam of Highland Reel, is a half-sister to the dual Group 1 star Bit Of A Skite (by Showoff) and to Shagolvin (by Sharivari), the Group 1-placed Group 2-winning third dam of Group 1 WATC Derby scorer Markus Maximum (by Pentire).
This is a family that has a well-established tradition of producing Group 1 horses, and also ones who can travel and excel in both the northern and southern hemisphere.
Highland Reel is a triple Group/Grade 1-winning son of Galileo, he has raced in seven different countries, on four continents, and he is an epitome of the modern top-class racehorse. He is related to three stallions who have sired a Group 1 winner, and he has a pedigree and CV that should give him plenty of appeal wherever he eventually goes to stud.